A book about the preservation of the famed Sarajevo Haggadah is Australia’s Book of the Year.
“People of the Book,” by Geraldine Brooks, a Pulitzer Prize-winning former Middle East correspondent for the Wall Street Journal, was selected at the Australian Book Industry Association’s awards ceremony on Monday night.
Brooks was inspired to write the bestselling novel, which also won literary fiction book of the year, when she was a foreign correspondent in the aftermath of the war in Bosnia.
The book’s heroine is an Australian rare books expert who is asked to conserve the coveted medieval manuscript.
Created in 14th-century Spain, the Sarajevo Haggadah is the believed to be the oldest Sephardic Haggadah in the world, and survived the Nazis and the Serbian shelling of Bosnia. It is now on permanent display at the National Museum in Sarajevo and is believed to be one of the most valuable books in the world, appraised at more than $700 million.
Brooks’ father served in Palestine in World War II and became a left-wing Zionist. Brooks fell in love with an American Jewish journalist, converted to the faith and now splits her time between Sydney and the United States.
“I have been fascinated by the whipsaw of Jewish history since I was in junior high [school],” she told Ha’aretz earlier this year. “So I think I would have been attracted to this story even if I’d never met a man named Tony Horwitz.”